Small stores work like big ones

Small stores work like big ones

Exciting, engaging, participating and providing concrete solutions: this is how valuable relationships with customers are activated.


Interview with Fabrizio Valente, founder and CEO of Kiki Lab.

“From our observatory RetailObserva, specialised in the world of international and Italian retail, three main trends emerge that characterise the evolution of customer expectations for the future. First of all, there is the theme of emotionality, which must be transferred more and more into the store experience, also to help it differentiate itself from the digital channels. We must promote the sensory experience of the products, because we know that the more we touch a product, the higher the probability of selling it; we must give space to the tale the product tells, to its story, to the materials, to the company that produces it. We must refine our ability to empathise with the customer, get in tune with them and be on their same wavelength, understand what they are looking for. And then there is the issue of visual merchandising, which is fundamental, because we also buy very much with our eyes and, therefore, an adequate presentation of the store is important. An interesting example is the Tiger chain of stores, which sells low-priced and low-value products, but which, thanks to the excellently organised visual merchandising - with the right combination of colours that even vary in the various seasons - manages to attract and stimulate impulse purchases. And all this can also be done when we talk about high-level and high-value product placements.


A second, very important, macro-trend is that of rationality. Rationality is not simply linked to price, which is certainly an important issue but, even more important, it is the psychological aspect that guides consumers' choices. There are customers who spend more than they had planned to spend, if they find something they are passionate about, and others who, even when faced with negligible amounts, buy nothing.  Rationality, today, then, is increasingly linked to the time factor. Customers don't want to waste time, and so we need to help them find what they need quickly. The store must be easily 'readable' and not dispersive. A recent example is the last store that Decathlon opened in Milan in Merlata Bloom. In the department dedicated to bicycles, all the accessories and clothing are divided into three sections: accessories and clothing for warm weather, for cold weather and for windy, rainy weather. The cyclist is guided simply and directly to the product he or she is looking for. Saving time also means facilitating checkout transactions and making them faster. Another topic, which sits somewhere between emotionality and rationality and also applies to smaller stores, is an appropriate use of QR Codes.


The QR Code helps to rationalise the customer experience: the customer is able to better orient themselves, focusing on the products in which they are most interested and obtaining valuable information about the product and the company.


The third macro-trend is that of sustainability. Consumers, people, customers are asking us to go in this direction and are increasingly beginning to orient their choices, giving preference to companies and stores that make sustainable choices: projects, production, materials. Not to mention design and beauty. As Oscar Farinetti says, “from duty to beauty”, we must be able, in fact, to do projects that are sustainable, but also beautiful, aesthetically attractive.


What is true in more structured realities also applies to small stores.


The retailer must take these three elements and develop them, adapting them to their reality and their customers. Emotion, empathy, listening, but also services and a focus on customer needs.


On the subject of time management, I would like to share some advice: at certain times, perhaps on a Saturday afternoon, when there are more people in the store, we should work on what the Americans define as 'active waiting': so making sure that waiting is never wasted time, but active time.


How to do it? Perhaps by putting information totems near the cash desk with emotional videos; making pre-configured tablets available to customers with information pages on the company website or on partner sites, on stories or products. We must make sure that the customer can perceive time not as a wait, but as something enriching.


Also from the point of view of services, we must think about how to save the customer's time: from home delivery to the after-sales phase. And finally, the topic of sustainability must be valued: within your assortment you need to start shifting the balance a bit towards more sustainable products, with recycled and recyclable packaging; towards products and companies with a virtuous history and perhaps, create connections with local associations in order to actively participate in the life of the community.